Friday, 28 March 2014

Barclays League Live: it's a lot more than watching a couple of games on Africa's biggest screen

So often you get invited to football functions that bore you to tears. Not the British Premier League's new fan zone concept: Barclays League Live. Zoo Lake near Johannesburg today was seriously impressive: it will be open from noon tomorrow and Sunday FREE for fans who want to see live British action on the big screen - but what surprised me was: there's MUCH, MUCH more than mere spectating to be done.

With Chelsea's Marcel Desailly and former England and
Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler at Zoo Lake today

For a start, some of our fooballing superheroes will be wandering about. French World Cup winner Marcel Desailly and former England and Liverpool star Robbie Fowler were both there today - tomorrow former Bolton, Charlton and Orlando Pirates African Champions League winner Mark Fish and ex-Leeds United hero Lucas Radebe will join the fans too.

It's a seriously impressive Absa-sponsored event (their banking partners Barclays sponsor the British Premier League) and there are plans to hold a similar event for South Africa's Absa PSL within the next year.

Chelsea's Petr Cech penalty challenge: Robbie Fowler shot
a 25-pointer first time. I tried six times and failed. Dismally

Though the Barclays League is beamed to 804 MILLION homes across 212 nations EVERY WEEK, not everyone is in entirely in love with British football in South Africa.

Former Kaizer Chiefs legend and SuperSport football analyst Shakes Kungwane tweeted me to say he didn't like the Premier League being shoved down his throat - and there are a growing number of La Liga and Bundesliga fans among the younger generation of football fans.

On top of that, the AmaKhosi are playing AS Vita in a vital African Champions League second round, second leg clash tomorrow night at Soccer City, trying to overcome a 3-0 away deficit while ailing Arsenal are airing live at Zoo Lake against Manchester City. And we've got Orlando Pirates and Moroka Swallows kicking off the Original Soweto Derby in Soweto at 6pm, an hour after Crystal Palace kick-off against Chelsea 5000 miles north.

But South African football - particularly the PSL - can learn a lot from what the Premier League have dared to do at Zoo Lake. PSL attendances are generally poor-to-pitiful, there is little on offer in the way of family entertainment or catering at our grounds. Only the big clubs - Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns - really draw crowds and the pull of SuperSport's live British football is a tempting alternative to watching live in the PSL stands.

And of course, we get to watch MORE live Barclays League football in South Africa than the British themselves, who are denied live coverage at 5pm on a Saturday afternoon, something the PSL should consider here.

Ultimately it's a battle for football-shaped hearts and minds. No expense spared. South Africa is one of the oldest and most lucrative markets for the British game, with replica Liverpool and Manchester United shirts present on every street in every corner of this diverse Rainbow Nation.

But the market is growing old. To maintain their traditional dominance over Spain and Germany's technically superior game, an exhibition at Zoo Lake is an obvious step for the Barclays League. Quite how much all this cost the Premier League and/or their banking sponsors, I've no idea. But it's got to be millions of rands, if not pounds. Dozens of Premier League officials, former players and commercial people have flown in to Oliver Tambo over the last 48 hours. Cardiff City, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Sunderland all have exhibits around the Zoo Lake Sports Club ground offering a range of football skills games - shooting, passing, penalty-taking, dribbling are all tested, assessed and ranked. The kids will love it.

In the centre of the ground, there's a five-a-side pitch and - obviously - there's plenty of scope for drinks and food spotted around the 100m square big screen - it's the largest television in Africa right now and has its own grandstand.

Glittering prize: the Premier League trophy at Zoo Lake
There are less strenuous pursuits too - one tent offers the glittering Premier League trophy with voice of football Martin Tyler talking us through the history of the competition since 1992 - and you can snap a picture with the trophy and your favourite team - to be emailed to you after a brief registration process.

The Premier League fan zone also offers a computerised tent where you can pick your own club's dream team if you want a break from the football action. Seriously, it's a family day out, even if the missus and the daughters aren't all kitted up.

For the football fanatcis the games being screened are: David Moyes' struggling Manchester United against Aston Villa at 2pm tomorrow. Then South Africa's own Kagiso Dikgacoi could be in action when relegation-threatened Crystal Palace attempt to stop the Chelsea juggernaut at 5pm. At 7pm, Arsenal - beaten 6-0 by Chelsea last week and held 2-2 by Swansea on Tuesday - have the toughest task of all attempting to stop Manchester City's millionaires from closing in on the top.

On Sunday, struggling Fulham face South African Steven Pienaar's in-form Everton at 3.30pm before title-chasing Liverpool face Tottenham Hotspur at 6pm.

 Look, nobody's saying the Barclays League is better than our own PSL, La Liga or the Bundesliga. But it is eminently watchable - almost a habit among some sectors of the football-speaking community.

If you're NOT going to a live PSL game tomorrow and/or Sunday (and that's most of you), it's worth a go. And you can take the whole family, boots and all.

BOLLOCKZ! my innovative football show on airs every Thursday from 9am-11am. See Ballz' channel for our growing library of fascinating football interviews with the big names. 

You can also follow me on for all the latest sports news…email me on and read my “Neal and Pray” column every Tuesday in

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Thursday, 27 March 2014

Don't worry Kaizer Chiefs. Last night's own goal wasn't the worst we've ever seen. Have a look at this little lot....

It seems unfair to single out a youngster for a blunder in only his second major start for a big club. But hell, Simphiwe Mtsweni's own goal at Soccer City last night takes some beating.

Caught on the far-post, the 19-year-old left back appeared to have time to control, clear... do anything he wanted. Instead he chose to stick the ball in the corner, not quite what third-choice AmaKhosi goalkeeper Brilliant Khuzwayo was hoping for.

Fortunately Mtsweni's equaliser in last night's Nedbank Cup tie against third-tier club Buffalo from East London wasn't decisive. Chiefs went on to win 2-1 to progress to today's Nedbank Cup quarter-final draw. And luckily there weren't many there to witness his blunder. But here it is...

Of course, Mtsweni is not the first AmaKhosi to produce a bizarre own goal. Team-mate Bernard Parker's bizarre header while playing for South Africa against Ethiopia last year had far greater consequences than last night's effort. And it was a far better finish.

His header simply flew past Chiefs team-mate Itumeleng Khune to put the Antelopes 2-1 up and send Bafana Bafana crashing out of the 2014 World Cup, though I suspect Gordon Igesund would have struggled to make it through the play-offs against Nigeria even if he'd won Group A.

Still. It could be worse for the Chiefs pair. How about this last night in the English Premier League? Hull City defender James Chester's effort wasn't just hilarious, it was also the WINNER for West Ham in a desperate relegation battle. BOOM!

And the worst own goal of all? Impossible to say. There have been so many examples of football's most inexplicable act. But here's one that may make Messrs Mtsweni, Parker and Chester feel a little bit better this morning:

 BOLLOCKZ! my innovative football show on airs every Thursday from 9am-11am. See Ballz' channel for our growing library of fascinating football interviews with the big names. 

You can also follow me on for all the latest sports news… and read my “Neal & Pray” column every Tuesday in

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Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Pitso Mosimane is no joke: Sundowns could be level with Kaizer Chiefs by Sunday

Always happy to make his point: Pitso Mosimane

Pitso Mosimane makes us laugh. Pitso Mosimane makes us cry. But for all his post-match entertainment, it’s time to stop treating the 49-year-old Mamelodi Sundowns coach as a joke.

After Tuesday night’s emphatic 3-1 defeat of Platinum Stars – only Alan Freese’s second defeat at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium this season – Masandawana are now just three points behind Kaizer Chiefs, though the holders have a game in hand.

With Chiefs caught in the middle of an African Champions League firestorm – they lost 3-0 against AS Vita in Kinshasa last week and face an improbable mission to claw that deficit back at Soccer City on Saturday – the AmaKhosi have plenty to worry about.

And Mosimane will be waiting to pounce at the slightest hiccup. Goals from Surprise Moriri, Anthony Laffor and Lebohang Mokoena – prompted by a resurgence from Teko Modise in Khama Billiat’s injury-enforced absence – enabled Sundowns to do what Stuart Baxter couldn’t against the Dikwena a few weeks ago, when Chiefs lost 2-0 in the North West.

And, as always, Mosimane entertained us with his post-match analysis. Already he’s talked this season about his players “eating grass and sweating blood” but this time we were told: "I have never worked so hard on one game like this. I have never spent so long on my little CD player in the bus.

"This was the game I really wanted to win, it was so important. Coming here before and playing Platinum Stars, we haven't gotten what we deserve. Tonight we got respect.

"Yes, this was one of my best games at Sundowns. Tactically we were spot on. We killed their wingplay, we closed them down, we were pressing from the top.

"This one I've earned, I give the credit to… myself."

It’s tempting to laugh when Pitso comes out with such self-glorifying clap-trap. But think about it. Mosimane’s Sundowns were too much for Dutch legend Johan Neeskens. He couldn’t cope with the pressure of running megarich Patrice Motsepe’s millionaires, just like Bulgarian Hristo Stoichkov and Spaniard Antonio Lopez Habas before him.

With a host of coaches, accountants, managers and technicians putting their oar in, Sundowns have failed to win the PSL title since the glory years of 2006 and 2007 when they won back-to-back championships.

Sacked: Bafana boss Pitso
Pitso himself spent six years at neighbouring SuperSport United, only to leave in service of his country, allowing Gavin Hunt to surge to THREE successive PSL titles  with Matsatsantsa a Pitori immediately after Mosimane’s departure.

Mosimane served as Bafana’s caretaker and as an assistant under Carlos Alberto Parreira and Joel Santana in the build-up to the 2010 World Cup, dealing with language problems, misinformation and high expectations before he was fired for narrowly failing to qualify, despite that awful victory dance, for AFCON 2012 (he unfairly took the blame for misreading the rules) and drawing with Ethiopia at home in the first game of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.

But in truth, Mosimane’s 24-month reign as national coach wasn’t that bad at all. In 16 attempts, He won six, drew seven and lost just three, a record as good as any who have attempted to steer the national side in the right direction since the heady days of 1996.

Now he stands on the verge of greatness once more. He won the Super 8 (2004) and Nedbank Cup (2005) at SuperSport and has steadied the ship with a Nedbank Cup semi-final appearance last season after taking over from Neeskens.

But the PSL title would cap anything he has achieved before, not bad for a bloke who grew up playing “street football” on the dusty roads of Kagiso as a kid.

Pitso was spotted as a player at amateur outfit Rockville Hungry Lions by Jomo Sono and Stanley “Screamer” Tshabalala, making his deut for Jomo Cosmos at 18 before he became the most expensive player in the country when he moved to Mamelodi Sundowns – who else? – in 1985.

He won the League and Mainstay Cup double that season but returned to Cosmos, where he scored 11 goals in their only title-winning season, 1987.

After a brief stint at Orlando Pirates, in 1989, Pitso played in Greece for six years at Ionikos FC before playing for Begium’s Rita Berlaar and Qatar’s Al Saad FC Doh. He was capped four times by South Africa and scored on his debut against against Mauritius in the African Cup of Nations Qualifiers in 1993.

Pitso Mosimane started his coaching career in 1999 at the Soweto football academy Barney Molokane – SuperSport took four of his players and eventually Mosimane himself, first as a scout, then as head coach in 2000.

He was named South Africa’s Coach of the Year in the 2004/2005 season  but in 14 years of trying, he has yet to win the big one. As he so eloquently put it after the 4-1 Nedbank Cup win over Golden Arrows last weekend: “The team is good. The team is strong. The team shows integrity. A lot of people are writing us off.

“We wish we could make everybody happy, but we are okay. We are on the road all the time. We are building on the road and collecting victories. We will see.”

With AmaTuks to play on Sunday, Sundowns could be level with Chiefs before we know it. And nobody will be laughing.

 BOLLOCKZ! my innovative football show on airs every Thursday from 9am-11am. See Ballz' channel for our growing library of fascinating football interviews with the big names. 

You can also follow me on for all the latest sports news… and read my “Neal & Pray” column every Tuesday in

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Monday, 24 March 2014

Is this the end of the African road for Kaizer Chiefs? Here's the closest thing to a match report you're likely to get

UPHILL BATTLE: Shabba and Baxter
Kaizer Chiefs' shocking 3-0 demise in Kinshasa on Saturday, like Orlando Pirates supreme effort at TP Mazembe last year, will never be seen in South Africa. In fact, despite all those shenanigans in Lubumbashi last season, not a SINGLE Mzanzi journalist travelled to AS Vita on Saturday. Bizarre.

Fortunately the AmaKhosi’s efforts at over-turning that dire deficit at Soccer City on Saturday will be visible to all as Stuart Baxter’s men attempt to reach the Group Stages of the African Champions League. 

I can uncover no feasible reason from either the SABC or SuperSport as to why the crucial Champions League second round clash between South Africa’s most popular football team and the Democratic Republic of Congo’s finest went untelevised. Nor can any of the big soccer internet sites and newspapers explain why they failed to send a SINGLE reporter to the game.

So the nation went in to the big showdown BLIND. All I could muster during Sunday afternoon’s disastrous first leg in the Stade des Martyrs de la PentecĂ´te was this SMS from Baxter on the morning of the game: “Just going to squad meeting. Chaos reigns is Congo but lads have done well so far to stay focused.”

As the game unfolded on fuzzy video links, even fuzzier radio streams, computer crashes and twitter updates, it became clear that the home team’s 22-year-old striker Firmin Ndombe Mubele, capped six times by the DRC, was going to be the star of the night.

His first goal popped up on seven minutes. A few Chiefs chances later, he doubled the lead in the 35th minute before completing his hat-trick and the scoreline a minute after half-time. AS Vita also allegedly hit the woodwork twice.

Two of those goal, apparently, were “wonder goals”,  a pair of classics. How can I be sure on the basis of blurry images and hearsay? Simple. Baxter was on the SMS within minutes of the final whistle.

This is his concise summary of events:

“We missed chances and they scored two wonder goals.

“At 1-0 we have a set play and that leaves Masha (Tefu Mashamaite) free with the keeper. He misses and they go straight down the other end and score. 3-0 comes from a Van Basten copy (a reference to a cracking volley for Holland in the 1988 European Championship final) minutes after half-time.

“It was a good game but we will have to dig deep in Joburg. Talk when we get back, Neal.”

And that’s it. Apart from a few messages and pictures from Kaizer Chiefs communications manager Vina Maphosa (and the patchy video below), we have little else to go on before AS Vita’s all-conquering heroes – who qualified for the Congo league play-off last week – arrive in South Africa for the second leg.

On twitter, we attempted to find ways in which we could #welcomeasvita, ranging from playing live Steve Hofmeyr songs in the hotel lobby to piling the Congolese squad in to a dodgy taxi for the trip to Soccer City next Saturday. There was even a suggestion which should send Kulubhuse Zuma to their pre-match meal.

But while SuperSport United coach Cavin Johnson complained to me that his side’s 1-0 defeat at Tunisia’s Etoile Sahel in the CAF Confed Cup had been marred by poor refereeing – centering on a disallowed Mame Niang goal – Baxter has yet to tell us of any shenanigans in the DRC on Sunday.

So assuming the PSL’s “penultimate” ref Victor Gomes doesn’t officiate next Saturday – he gave FIVE penalties in a single game three weeks ago – Baxter will have to rely on an emphatic 4-0 win at home or face playing with the also-rans in the CAF Confederations Cup..

But as I said to him before he left the Congo: “If David Moyes and Manchester United can recover from 0-2 in Greece to win 3-0 against Olympiacos after the season they’ve had, Kaizer Chiefs can do at least that against AS Vita.”

With his champions six points clear at the top of the PSL, Baxter and his men have lost just two out of 21 games since early November – to Platinum Stars and AS Vita. They have NEVER lost a home league game in 18 months under the Wolverhampton-born coach.

Yes, 4-0 would be miraculous. But stranger things have happened.

FULL VIDEO BELOW, shorter version HERE

BOLLOCKZ! my innovative football show on airs every Thursday from 9am-11am. See Ballz' channel for our growing library of fascinating football interviews with the big names. 

You can also follow me on for all the latest sports news… and read my “Neal & Pray” column every Tuesday in

BOLLOCKZ! is backed by - have a look at their site for my latest sports betting advice and charity bets for our Wingzofchange charity!  

Saturday, 22 March 2014

HIT FOR SIX: Arsene Wenger explains how Arsenal contrived to lose his 1000th game in charge. With gusto.

Strange way to celebrate: Wenger can't watch his 1000th game in charge
There can be no words to explain how Arsenal fans feel about Arsene Wenger's 1,000th game in charge. Just like those drubbings against Manchester City and Liverpool, Chelsea were 2-0 up in seven minutes and romped to a 6-0 triumph.

The ageless Samuel Eto'o scored after just four minutes, Schurrle added the second in the 7th, Eden Hazard converted the much-talked-about penalty (more of that later) after 17 minutes and by the time lethal Oscar added the fourth and fifth, South African Gooners may have been asking if this was murder before sub Salah completed the rout.

Jose Mourinho, now unbeaten in 11 clashes with Wenger, celebrated his greatest triumph for Chelsea (their next-best was 6-1 against Macclesfield in the FA Cup, 2007) by saying: "We started so strong. After seven minutes it was all over. We were too strong for them."

The man who controversially described Wenger as a failure a month ago didn't need to say much more.

Without a trophy win since Patrick Vieira stuck home the penalty shoot-out winner against Manchester United to lift the FA Cup in 2005, Wenger has now gone 508 of those 1,000 games without silverware.

Here's what Wenger said afterwards. No further words are required:

"This defeat is my fault, I take full responsibility for it. I don't think there's too much need to talk about the mistakes we made. We got a good hiding today.

"It's how we respond now on Tuesday night [against Swansea] and the best way is not to explain too much the mistakes.

"Yes, of course it's one of the worst days [in my career]. It's over after 20 minutes and it's a long game after that. You don't prepare all week to experience that kind of experience."

Who me? Gibbs is wrongly dismissed
There was one moment of light relief for Arsenal fans at Stamford Bridge, where Arsenal haven't won since the days of Bergkamp and Wright.

When Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made a flying save to a shot going wide (an obvious red card), referee Andre Marriner erroneously dismissed Kieran Gibbs amid much confusion.

Though it hardly matters on a day when Arsenal's title hopes were emphatically crushed, Wenger explained: "I believe it was handball but the referee hasn't seen it. The ball went out and I think it's Chamberlain who touched the ball. I don't know who gave indication to the referee that it was handball but he has certainly not seen it.

"Of course. it's a huge disappointment today but we want to win the next game now."

What Wenger failed to explain to the BBC is why his side consistently starts the early kick-off Saturday afternoon games so badly... and why he didn't start with defensive midfielder Mathieu Flamini against a Chelsea side flying high at the top of the Premier League. 

If there IS a gala dinner to celebrate Wenger's 1000th game in charge, it might be a good last supper to avoid.

STOP PRESS: Wayne Rooney's wondergoal for Manchester United (watched by previous wondergoal specialist David Beckham) is HERE:

BOLLOCKZ! my innovative football show on airs every Thursday from 9am-11am. See Ballz' channel for our growing library of fascinating football interviews with the big names. 

You can also follow me on for all the latest sports news… and read my “Neal & Pray” column every Tuesday in

BOLLOCKZ! is backed by - have a look at their site for my latest sports betting advice and charity bets for our Wingzofchange charity!  

Thursday, 20 March 2014


Outraged: Stuart Baxter refused to greet Chiefs fans last night

STUART BAXTER'S Kaizer Chiefs pulled off a sensational late escape in Polokwane last night - and then had another blast at the AmaKhosi for booing the club's Zimbabwean Kingston Nkatha.

The double-winners won 2-0 against Roger de Sa's Ajax Cape Town to extend their lead at the top of the PSL to six points with eight left to play last night with Gavin Hunt's Wits held 0-0 by AmaTuks.

But those two late goals from Knowledge Musona failed to calm the Wolverhampton-born coach who became the first foreign boss to win the title in his first season last year.

With a brutal African Champion League trip to Congo's AS Vita to come this weekend, Baxter was seen at one point gesticulating to the fans as the booed their favourite target Kingston Nkatha during the clash at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane.

Afterwards Baxter, 60, could barely contain his fury as he REFUSED to thank the 15,000 fans and admitted he was struggling to live happily with the AmaKhosi fans.

He said: "I will be brutally honest, usually I go and greet the fans but I will not greet the fans tonight.

"What they do with Kingston ... when Kingston was one on one with the goalkeeper we can thank the fans for that. Because he was so nervous he just blasted it. Now we can thank the fans for that, and I will not greet them.

"It leaves the question do you want to work at a football club where the fans behave that way to your players when they're top of the league and giving it their all?

"I don't know, that's a question I am going to have to answer."

Speaking on football show BOLLOCKZ! on, Baxter emphasised his point, saying "Fans who boo their own players when we are top of the League? Who boo a player who works as hard as Nkatha? Deplorable. I don't understand it.

"My assistant Doctor Khumalo feels we should bring legends to educate the fans, but I don't see why. We go to Polokwane to show them our team, we don't go to get our players booed by our fans."

On the match itself, Baxter said: "I thought it was a good game of football to start with, two teams who are well organised and know what to do," said Baxter.

"In the first half, we gave away possession too many times for it to be a good first, at times we were excellent, Ajax were always a threat, we had to work hard.

"The second half, I thought the boys played better football in possession,a and when we got the goal, I thought it was rough justice, we were missing so many chances, i was beginning to think we weren't going to get that goal.

"Knowledge pops up and gets two superb goals and then they run out the game , there must have been some tired legs there, but it wasn't evident."

Zimbabwean striker Knowledge Musona, on long-term loan at Naturena from German Bundesliga outfit Hoffenheim, said: "We were under pressure because it was almost 90 minutes and we didn't score.

"We worked very well, we did a good job to collect maximum points , that was a very good game and well done to the boys.

"We missed a lot of chances, especially me, I got most of the chances in the game, I kept going, I knew I was going to score and finally in the last two minutes I got the goals." 

BOLLOCKZ! my innovative football show on airs every Thursday from 9am-11am. See Ballz' channel for our growing library of fascinating football interviews with the big names. 

You can also follow me on for all the latest sports news… and read my “Neal & Pray” column every Tuesday in

BOLLOCKZ! is backed by - have a look at their site for my latest sports betting advice and charity bets for our Wingzofchange charity!  

Sunday, 16 March 2014

SOWETO DERBY SPECIAL: Willard Katsande, the industrial diamond, puts Kaizer Chiefs a cut above the rest

Rare diamond: Willard Katsande about to score the
Soweto Derby winner yesterday, with Senzo Meyiwa
beaten and Sifiso Myeni a mere spectator
SOME diamonds don’t sparkle. Some diamonds are industrial. Some diamonds are forged in the depths of the earth for drilling and grinding.

While their expensive cousins sit on the end of gold pendants and draw admiring looks for doing very little, the industrial diamond - tougher than any other substance known to man - simply cuts through the crap and does the job.

I put it to you m’lady: Willard Katsande is an industrial diamond. But as 90000 witnessed at Soccer City on Saturday, he’s a gem none-the-less in Kaizer Chiefs’ glittering array of double-winning sparklers.

Look, it’s no good pretending Stuart Baxter’s tactical genius won the Soweto Derby on Saturday. Or blaming former Kaizer Chiefs head coach Vladimir Vermerzovic for dropping Happy Jele and Thabo Matlaba.

It’s no good pretending the latest clash between the Soweto rivals was a classic, though the last half-hour was pleasantly hectic as Kaizer Chiefs held out for a telling 1-0 triumph.

And, Lehlohonolo Majoro, you really can’t blame the AmaKhosi for booing you after that controversial flit between South Africa’s two biggest clubs.

Forget all that. This was Katsande’s day. The man I described on twitter on Friday as “the best player in South Africa this season”. Blimey, did I take some stick for that one. After the game, typically, he had little time for self-embellishment. Industrial diamonds don’t bother with all that pretty stuff.

“We stuck to the game plan,” he growled, “We worked hard, we worked as a team. I did my job. But it was nice to get a goal at last. It was long overdue but it was an important one.”

Before the start on Saturday I sent Mbax an SMS complimenting South Africa’s most successful current coach for picking “a positive line-up” which included all THREE of the big guns he dropped for 2-0 midweek defeat against Platinum Stars at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium.

Having seen his 17-game unbeaten run since November 5 ended by Allan Freese’s men, Baxter put Knowledge Musona (the nation’s top scorer with 13 goals in all competitions), Bernard Parker (the PSL top scorer with 10 League goals) and Kingston Nkatha in his starting line-up. Goals aplenty loomed.

The truth is, it didn’t quite work. Buccaneer Mpho Mokola worked like a whirlwind in a first half where, against all the odds, Pirates actually had the upper hand. With Oupa Manyisa and Kermit Erasmus also doing good work, Chiefs were wobbling at times in a dullish opening 45 minutes.

Though stand-in goalkeeper Reyaad Pieterse made two comfortable saves, only one Chief really stood up to be counted in the opening stanza. I like to call him “KARDSANDE” due to Willard’s reputation for gaining a yellow card in every appearance as he charges around the midfield keeping control, regaining possession, winning the ball, keeping it.

So it was only right that South Africa’s premier defensive midfielder should score the only goal in front of 92,000 people on Saturday.

It was no rip-roaring snorter. And it was his first in 67 games in the PSL. Simphiwe Tshabalala’s corner was probably too close to Senzo Meyiwa. But Nkatha blocked the keeper’s route to the ball and Katsande popped up on the far post to scramble the ball home.

After his first EVER goal celebration in South Africa, the 28-year-old Zimbabwean returned to his day job and spent the frantic last 30 minutes doing what he does best: snuffing out the Buccaneers as they desperately sought the equaliser.

There were times when he tackled with his shins, cleared with a rogue knee or blocked with the back of his head. But Katsande, born in Mutoko on January 15, 1986, never gave up. Spotted by Bobby Motaung while playing a friendly for Zimbabwe v Zambia in 2011, Katsande’s arrival at Naturena in from Ajax Cape Town two years ago didn’t make much of a ripple in the transfer waters.

But having tackled himself to a standstill in a shock 1-0 win over mighty Egyptians Al Ahly in 2010 for Gunners FC, Katsande already had an established reputation as a Makalele defensive midfielder to the north of our borders. Gunners FC lost that African Champions League tie in Cairo but went on to win the Zimbabwean title with Katsande at the heart of their midfield in 2010.

Not that Katsande’s rise was meteoric. He started out as a teenager with Frontier Steel (2002–2005) and Feruka (2006–2007) before moving to Highway (2007-2009), a bunch of lads from Mutare renowned for their giant-killing exploits. That’s when the Gunners stepped in. The rest, as they say…

History of course, can take strange twists. Baxter sent me a two-word SMS after the Derby. It said simply “IMMENSE KATSANDE”, but he also admits: "I’ve told you this before, when I first saw Willard at training, I told (assistant coach) Doctor Khumalo ‘He can't play for Chiefs, he’s too reckless!’ But he’s worked so hard since then, he deserves all this.”

After Saturday’s Soweto Derby, Baxter chatted a bit about a poor first half and the changes he made at half-time. But then came the quote that mattered: “Yes, we packed the midfield. WITH ONE MAN. The guy over there with the Man of the Match award. Willard Katsande was incredible today.”

And that, in a nutshell, was the story of the Soweto Derby. With Bidvest Wits upset 3-1 by Free State Stars on Saturday night, who’s to say Katsande’s rare goal isn’t the most important strike of the season?

 BOLLOCKZ! my innovative football show on airs every Thursday from 9am-11am. See Ballz' channel for our growing library of fascinating football interviews with the big names. 

You can also follow me on for all the latest sports news… and read my “Neal & Pray” column every Tuesday in

BOLLOCKZ! is backed by - have a look at their site for my latest sports betting advice and charity bets for our Wingzofchange charity!  

Thursday, 13 March 2014

CLOSE SHAVES AND SOWETO DERBIES: why Kaizer Chiefs will emerge triumphant in front of 90,000 on Saturday

Derby date: Majoro makes the switch

JUST when you thought it was safe to predict a solid Soweto Derby win for Kaizer Chiefs, along comes a wet Wednesday night in the PSL to put all prophesies on hold.

While Orlando Pirates – complete with new boss Vladimir “Work Permit” Vermezovic and substitute Lehlohonolo “Big Ballz” Majoro – sloshed their way to a 1-0 win over Moroka Swallows in the "original" Soweto derby, Platinum Stars ended the AmaKhosi’s four-month streak with a comprehensive 2-0 win at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium.

Shock swept the nation, much like the monsoon currently engulging us. Chiefs, unbeaten since Ajax Cape Town on November 5, went in to the game against Allan Freese’s unsung heroes on the back of an emphatic 7-0 African Champions League triumph over Mozambique champions Liga Muçulmana with Knowledge Musona slamming a quick hat-trick in Maputo.

This was supposed to be No 18. Stuart Baxter, who won the PSL and Nedbank Cup double in his first season at Naturena last year, completely under-estimated the Fokeng Crocodiles, ignoring the fact Dikwena had gobbled up the MTN8 and Telkom KO silverware before Christmas.

Mbax “rested” his three top scorers – Knowledge, Kingston Nkatha and the PSL’s hottest shot Bernard Parker – and opted to go with a rusty Katlego “Killer” Mphela up front on his own. Surprisingly, Wolverhampton-born Baxter also went with his infamous “three towers” formation with Morgan Gould, Tefu Mashamaite and Eric Mathoho forming a centre-back triangle, much like that one off Bermuda where people go missing.

Freese’s men never looked back. The impressive Siphelele Mthembu threaded his way through the trio of towers after just nine minutes to beat goalkeeping stand-in Reyaad Pieterse and free-scoring Malawian Robert Ng'ambi wrapped things up on the hour, chesting home the second on the far post.

Close shave: getting rid of the "Kaizer Chiefs unbeaten"
beard during BOLLOCKZ! at Ballz this morning
By then, the impatient AmaKhosi, gloating over their 17-match run of W-W-W-W-W-W-W-W-W-W-W-D-D-W-W-W-W, were beginning to grumble. Even the arrival of Knowledge and Kingston failed to cheer things up. The leaders were well-beaten. The beard I started way back at the start of that run was GONE – I promised Stuart I’d shave when they lost, and I spent this morning presenting my football show BOLLOCKZ! while ridding myself of facial hair.

And throughout that high-quality clash in Fokeng, Orlando Pirates were producing a vital but unspectacular win at Dobsonville.

Kermit Erasmus, so poor in caretaker Eric Tinkler’s final game – a hugely disappointing 1-0 defeat at the hands of AmaTuks – did EXACTLY what he said he would and upped his game. The former SuperSport United man hit the post early on and then crashed home the only goal of the game to put a rare smile on VV’s face.

After his first game in charge, Vlad said before the gigantic clash against his former club: “It was the win we needed to lift the mood before the Soweto Derby. There is still a lot to be done. But I watched the reserves today, Klate, Sangweni and the rest are all ready to step up to the first team.”

With the Chiefs run broken and Pirates apparently rejuvenated by their new coach, those confident predictions of continued AmaKhosi success are scuppered. Mphela? He wouldn’t need Barry Roux to rid him of the “Killer” tag right now. He is entirely innocent, he hasn't produced a lethal shot in ages. For the first time this season, tough midfielder Willard Katsande was unable to halt the opposition’s flow, only Simphiwe Tshabalala appeared to be ready and willing on a difficult night in the North West.

And with the BIG ONE looming, it’s all going off. Majoro emerged after his brief first outing for Pirates since his controversial move from Chiefs to say he was prepared for the boo-boys at Soccer City on Saturday, eager to prove his point against his former team-mates. AmaKhosi captain and goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune, officially out for a month after spraining his ankle before Bafana Bafana’s record 5-0 defeat against Brazil, is now rated 50-50 to play in front of 90,000 in South Africa’s showpiece. A miraculous recovery.

And then there was Zeca Marques, the crest-fallen Swallows boss, telling us: “There is no justice in football. Senzo Meyiwa was Pirates man of the match, he made two great saves in the second half. No way we should have lost that game.”

And Zeca’s right. Pirates weren’t that impressive. Chiefs will have their three big guns back on Saturday. Baxter knows defeat in the Soweto Derby will put dangerous Bidvest Wits right back in it if they beat lowly Free State Stars in the evening game on Saturday.

That combination of results will put the Clever Boys firmly back in the Hunt, as Gavin will point out: a game in hand, three points behind.

Baxter is well aware of that. Chiefs can’t lose on Saturday. Pirates aren’t good enough to beat them. But a draw might suit both parties. Me? I’m going for an AmaKhosi win with Parker, Musona and/or Nkatha back in the starting line-up.

But this is the Derby. Only a madman makes predictions when Chiefs play Pirates. Form counts for nothing they say. So I’m sticking to my guns: Chiefs 3-1.

Whilst I was shaving, also spoke to Danny Jordaan, the SAFA president about the future of Bafana Bafana and our women, Banyana Banyana, on BOLLOCKZ! this morning. The interview is HERE:


 BOLLOCKZ! my innovative football show on airs every Thursday from 9am-11am. See Ballz' channel for our growing library of fascinating football interviews with the big names. 

You can also follow me on for all the latest sports news… and read my “Neal & Pray” column every Tuesday in

BOLLOCKZ! is backed by - have a look at their site for my latest sports betting advice and charity bets for our Wingzofchange charity! 

Monday, 10 March 2014

The trouble with a treble: Kaizer Chiefs fighting on three fronts with VV and the Soweto Derby looming

Knowledge is Power: Musona celebrates
STUART BAXTER’s task becomes clearer – but trickier – every week. The closer the Kaizer Chiefs head coach gets to his goals, the darker the clouds will get. That's the trouble with a treble, even when you're on a 17-game unbeaten streak.

Yes, his on-loan Zimbabwean goal-poacher Knowledge Musona thumped home a first-half hat-trick in Maputo on Saturday – not that any of the local broadcasters bothered to televise the AmaKhosi’s emphatic 3-0 win against Liga Muculmana – and Baxter’s men cruised through to the second round 7-0 on aggregate.

But on Sunday, our Chiefs were greeted by news of an unwelcome trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo when AS Vita saw off Zimbabwe’s own “Glamour Boys” Dynamos 1-0 in Kinshasa after a goalless first leg in Harare.

The Knowledge hat-trick, missed by SABC and SuperSport, is HERE!

We all remember the last time a South African side went to the DRC on Champions League duty. Orlando Pirates went through hell at TP Mazembe at the same stage last year, with television black-outs, detained journalists, bogus red cards and TWO dodgy penalties.

But hey, Pirates survived and went on to the Group Stages and that stirring African Champions League final defeat against Al Ahly. And who’s to say Kaizer Chiefs can’t do the same?

Sure, the ankle ligaments twisted by Bafana Bafana’s No1 Itumeleng Khune won’t help matters, but they’ve got back-up. Former Nike talent search winner Reyaad Pieterse has been strong in Africa, earning the nickname “David James” (after the former England and Liverpool goalkeeper) and failing that, Baxter can turn to former AmaZulu stopper Brilliant Khuzwayo, who cut his teeth in the Under 23 national squad.

But now, with that trip to the DRC to come, Baxter must attend to his domestic duties. The Nedbank Cup has to be defended – and so does the PSL title after last season’s double in a glorious first season at Naturena for Wolverhampton-born “Mbax”.

Despite that six point lead at the top of the table, Baxter won’t be taking Alan Freese and his Platinum Stars for granted tomorrow (Wednesday) night at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium. Dikwena already have the MTN8 and Telkom KO in the bag this season, under-estimate them at your peril.

And then, the Soweto Derby on Saturday. Hold everything. The Ides of March put paid to Julius Caesar a few thousand years ago and arch-rivals Pirates have two potential back-stabbers: Serbian coach Vladimir Vermecovic is ready to use his shiny new work permit and Bafana striker Lehlonololo Majoro can hardly score less than his peers at arch-rivals Pirates.

As we said last week here, the presence of those two former Chiefs employess alone promises a lively derby at Soccer City, regardless of the Buccaneers’ limp 1-0 defeat against AmaTuks over the weekend.

With East London's Buffalo to come in the Nedbank Cup and both Bidvest Wits and Mamelodi Sundowns closing the gap at the top of the table, Baxter knows how difficult it will be to maintain that unbeaten run – which dates back to November 5 and the start of my current beard – on three fronts.

He grins: “We were so professional in Maputo, it’s hard when you go into a game winning 4-0 but we kept our motivation and concentration.

“We changed the way we normally play, we wanted to make it a test. We played with the 3 centre backs in case we want to use that when we are on the road in the rest of Africa. Our plan worked perfectly.

"Ask a big club anywhere in the world about their ambition and the answer will be the same. We are an ambitious club. Like other big clubs we go into each tournament to win.”

 Can they compete on three fronts? Can any big club? Yes. You can do just about anything when you've got a form guide reading WWWWWWWWWDDWWWW. 

BOLLOCKZ! my innovative football show on airs every Thursday from 9am-11am. See Ballz' channel for our growing library of fascinating football interviews with the big names. 

You can also follow me on for all the latest sports news… and read my “Neal & Pray” column every Tuesday in

BOLLOCKZ! is backed by - have a look at their site for my latest sports betting advice and charity bets for our Wingzofchange charity!